Johnston on Senators: What lies ahead for Alfie

Daniel Afredsson (CP/Adrian Wyld)

While Daniel Alfredsson was busy putting together a hockey career that has made him beloved in Ottawa, his family was steadily growing.

So when the Senators captain sits down and decides whether to return for another NHL season, his will not be the only vote.

A big one will also belong to his wife Birgitta. Sons Hugo, Loui, Fenix and William will get to have a say as well.

“I love the game,” Alfredsson said Friday night in Pittsburgh after Ottawa was eliminated from the playoffs. “I love to practice, I love to play games. I find the travel really tough with four young kids at home.

“That’s kind of where I struggle personally.”

The question here is not whether Alfredsson is good enough or healthy enough to continue playing. At age 40, he led the team in scoring this post-season and clearly remains its emotional leader.

But another season means another busy summer of training and probably two months spent in hotel rooms away from the family.

“You miss a lot of stuff,” said Alfredsson. “The first goal in your son’s career and birthdays — it’s tough.”

Alfredsson plans to have a conversation with Senators general manager Bryan Murray in the coming days about when the organization would like him to make a decision by.

Then he’ll wait and see how he feels.

It is a similar process to the one he went through last summer, when his kids urged him to return and play out the final year of his contract.

“They wanted me to play because they could come to the locker-room and be in the pool,” said Alfredsson. “They have a different perspective. They love going to games and whatnot. I’m sure if I asked them they would love for me to play.

“But at the same time my wife draws a pretty heavy load at home. Without her, I would never be able to play this long and she really supports me. At times I definitely feel like I miss out at home.”

If anyone understands that sentiment, it’s Senators coach Paul MacLean.

He has three children of his own and played for the Winnipeg Jets back in the days when NHL teams still flew commercially. That often meant road trips would last two weeks at a time.

“Alfie’s a tremendous person and he’s a tremendous father and he happens to be a pretty good hockey player,” said MacLean. “I think he’s going to make the decision that’s best for him and his family. In some way it’s going to include the Ottawa Senators and that’s going to be good for us.”

Retirement is clearly something that has at least been on Alfredsson’s mind.

He alluded to the possibility of it during interviews in the playoffs and retrieved the puck from the linesman after Game 4 against Pittsburgh, which was potentially the last time he’ll ever play at Scotiabank Place.

However, as the time ticked away on Friday night’s 6-2 series-ending loss at Consol Energy Center, it didn’t cross his mind.

“The last few minutes, (I wasn’t thinking) much really,” said Alfredsson. “If I had decided to retire already I think it would have been different. It’s always tough to lose out.

“It’s been crazy hectic — there’s been no time to reflect on anything really. It feels always empty when the season’s over.”

This was another good season for the Senators.

They defied the odds and prognostications by overcoming several significant injuries and qualifying for the playoffs. To get out of the first round with a five-game series win over Montreal was an added bonus.

“All I can say is it’s been a great year in terms of the group we’ve had, the adversity we’ve faced,” said Alfredsson. “We’ve become a tight group and stuck together throughout. It’s been a lot of fun.

“I’ll definitely take that with me when I think about what to do.”

Before heading into an uncertain future, there was one thing he was willing to guarantee to reporters.

“When I make the decision I know it’s definite,” said Alfredsson. “That’s why I want to take some time.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.